Saturday, May 07, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG bewails the flailing about policy of the ALP on illegal immigrants

The joys of bureaucracy

Disaster donations go out in a trickle

ANNA Bligh has read public servants the riot act for the second time in three months as anger builds over the slow rollout of relief funds to disaster-struck Queenslanders.

Just a third of the $260 million in the Premier's Disaster Relief Fund has gone to victims and Ms Bligh is livid at senior bureaucrats over delays. "I'm as frustrated as anyone else about this situation and I've issued a clear edict to those senior officers charged with distributing the funds: Just fix it," Ms Bligh told The Courier-Mail yesterday. "No ifs, no buts; just fix it."

The warning comes after a "please explain" in February when Ms Bligh said the process needed to be "streamlined".

More than 27,200 people have received almost $66 million as part of the first round of "emergency assistance" payments while the Government has paid $2.7 million to 98 householders whose homes were completely destroyed. Round 3 payments - for those who own houses that sustained structural damage - are at only $768,000 for 74 households.

John Tyson, whose wife Donna Rice and son Jordan were killed in the January 10 flash flood at Toowoomba, said every politician should spend a night in the Lockyer Valley and other flood-affected areas. "They'd learn life in a sleeping bag ain't much fun," Mr Tyson said. He said the bungled fund was "a crock" and that the Red Cross should be in charge of distribution.

Southport man Dennis Whitfield said he had contacted the Government up to 20 times demanding his money back so he could distribute the funds himself and was now threatening legal action.

"My wife and I were moved to tears when we saw the flood devastation in our beloved Queensland and ... we wanted our money to go directly and quickly to the people who needed it," Mr Whitfield said. "We did not wish to put money into state coffers where it would be whittled away by bureaucratic bungling."

Several Grantham residents criticised the lengthy application process, which includes providing two quotes from licensed builders for second and third-round payments.

Ms Bligh said the Government needed to ensure the correct checks were in place but admitted: "We need to do this with heart and flexibility."

Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman said Ms Bligh was no better than the insurance companies she had criticised for being slow to process claims. "The Labor Government should have geared up and put the resources in place to process the claims quickly and this simply has not happened," he said.


The good ol' generous taxpayer again

Incredible salaries of university bosses

THE salary of University of Queensland vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield soared to $1,069,999 this week after he won a staggering $80,000 payrise. The rise alone is more than the Australian average wage of $66,200 and ahead of salaries paid to lecturers and tutors. Several other Queensland vice-chancellors are edging closer to the million-dollar mark, according to reports tabled in Parliament.

Are they worth it? While acknowledging their high-powered, high-stress jobs, many will conclude the salaries are excessive.

There is no doubt that university boffins who make it to the top in Australia climb aboard the ultimate gravy train. Perks include free cars and expense accounts and trips to exotic locations for "research" and important seminars and meetings.

University leaders become the chief executives of vast "companies". Unlike real-world companies, however, universities are topped up each year with billions in federal funding.

Peter Coaldrake, vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, got a pay rise of $50,000, taking his salary to $759,999. Ian O'Connor, vice-chancellor of Griffith University, got a pay rise of $75,000, taking his salary to $714,999.

However, the academic world remains puzzled by the generous salaries paid to the heads of much smaller universities. The remuneration of Greg Hill, vice-chancellor of the University of Sunshine Coast, is believed to be on $489,999, with rises in the pipeline set to take his salary next year to $509,000. Hill succeeded vice-chancellor Paul Thomas, who left with a payout including superannuation of $859,999. Hill is also president of the university whose student numbers have jumped 15 per cent to 7276 since 2006.

In a note in the annual report Hill said: "Despite the rapid growth in student numbers the quality of learning and teaching has remained high. The university was the top-ranked public university in Queensland for teaching quality and graduate satisfaction in the most recent Good Universities Guide." He said the Australian Learning and Teaching Council awarded university staff six citations for excellence.

The remuneration of Scott Bowman, vice-chancellor of Central Queensland University, was listed as $479,999. The university has 12,733 full and part-time students. More than 8000 of them are international students. Sandra Harding, vice-chancellor of James Cook University, won a $60,000 pay rise, taking her salary to a high of $559,999. James Cook has 18,971 students.

By comparison, the University of Queensland has 44,000 full-time and part-time students including 10,465 international students. QUT has 40,563 enrolments, including 6000 from overseas and Griffith University said it has 43,000 students with 9007 from overseas.

A professor told me vice-chancellors of smaller universities had to be paid more to attract them to regional cities. Their pay had to compensate for a loss of prestige in accepting a job at a university of lower standing, he said.

Professor Bill Lovegrove, vice-chancellor at the University of Southern Queensland, accepted a more modest pay rise of $20,000, taking his salary to $509,999. USQ has 26,069 students, nearly 20,000 of them external or online students.

And salaries look set to soar as student numbers rise. Indeed, I was told some universities had already approved a fresh round of pay rises for their vice-chancellors for next year. The top 10 executives at the University of Queensland now earn in excess of $300,000 each. So do the top 10 at Griffith. The top seven executives at QUT earn $300,000 or better.

So why are vice-chancellors and executives paid like the CEOs of big companies?

No doubt universities have become big companies. International education is Australia's third-largest export industry, generating $18 billion in exports in 2009, the Australian Technology Network Universities reported. That amount is 50 per cent larger than tourism-related travel, and has grown by 94 per cent since 2004, according to Greenfield. Higher education generates about $9.3 billion or 57 per cent of this export income, he told the Canberra Press Club this week.

Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis said recently that Melbourne's seven universities were the city's biggest employers and had been the largest contributor to state economic development during the past 25 years.

Greenfield said higher education's contribution to economic prosperity was rarely discussed, even though it was the largest service export industry in Australia. He said a total of 480,000 undergraduate places were being funded in 2011, which is 50,000 students more than in 2009. "Encouragingly offers to students from low socio-economic backgrounds have increased faster than for other groups."

The rise of an academic fat cat class comes at a time when Australia's 40,000 academics such as lecturers and tutors believe they are underpaid. It is estimated that an additional 40,000 academic staff will be needed in the next two decades to reduce student staff ratios from an average of 20:1 to 15:1. In addition, thousands of academics will be required to replace those who retire.

A dissenting professor told me there was no evidence academic workers were being underpaid. She pointed to an international comparison of academic salaries by Laura E. Rumbley and colleagues at Boston College's Centre for International Higher Education which found Australian wages for entry-level academic positions are the third highest in the world after Canada and the US.

They are more than three times those in India and more than five times those in China. Australian wages for senior academics are the fourth highest in the world.


Qld.: A Leftist government's way of saving money

MORE than 3000 public servants are set to pocket a lucrative taxpayer-funded golden handshake of up to 90 weeks' pay under controversial State Government "cuts".

In a deal described as "very generous", staff with little more than a year's work in the public sector will qualify for the base payout of 30 weeks' wages, or an average of at least $35,000.

The plan is expected to cost $250 million and has been classified as a "voluntary separation program", reported The Courier-Mail.

But the Opposition yesterday accused the Bligh Government of squandering taxpayer money by not officially classing it as a redundancy program, which would have meant workers were paid less upfront but eligible for $100 million in concessions from the Australian Taxation Office. It said the Government was using clever wording in a bid to hide job cuts.

During the last election, Labor rallied against former LNP leader Lawrence Springborg's plan to implement a hiring freeze aimed at saving up to $1 billion. "Anna Bligh was promising jobs, not cuts, but in fact delivering, as we now see, cuts not jobs," shadow treasurer Tim Nicholls said yesterday.

The Government confirmed the base payments had been "substantially increased" compared with previous schemes.

Acting Treasurer Rachel Nolan said the scheme offered "greater operational flexibility" and the extra cash would ensure workers were not disadvantaged by the lack of tax breaks.

About 3500 people would be made redundant over three years but because their positions would continue to exist, the program did not amount to a redundancy scheme, she said. The Government expects to save $175 million in wages a year.

Queensland Public Sector Union secretary Alex Scott, who labelled the cuts a real concern, said the state needed more public service jobs. "Problems with unreasonable and excessive hours of work, as well as duties of position, rank in the top 20 reasons why many of our members request union representation," he said.

Mr Nicholls said the last redundancy program gave eight weeks' pay, plus two weeks for every year worked.

The new package offers a payment of 30 weeks' wages plus three weeks' pay for each completed year of service, up to a maximum 60 weeks. An average wage earner could walk away with $100,000. Only workers employed before January 2010 are eligible.

"The taxpayer is paying again for a lack of forward planning," Mr Nicholls said.

Treasury is still developing its terms and conditions but expects applications will open "very soon".

The package was described by a private sector employer group as "very generous", but a step in the right direction. "In the private sector they would be running for the door. You wouldn't have any problem filling it," Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland president David Goodwin said.


Pope gets tough on Leftist clergy

Christopher Pearson

LAST Monday the front page of The Australian featured a large photograph of an angry bishop. Some commentators in the blogosphere saw it as yet another media beat-up designed to depict the Catholic Church in an unflattering light. To my mind, it demonstrated a grasp of the battle lines in the culture wars that has eluded the rest of Australia's broadsheets.

The bishop in question was the outgoing Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris. He is one of three men who have been relieved of their dioceses by the Vatican in the past few months.

The others were the bishops of Pointe-Noire in Congo-Brazzaville and Orvieto-Todi in Italy. But while they were removed for financial mismanagement in one case and misbehaviour in the other, Morris's ouster was on doctrinal grounds.

Bishops are in some respects akin to sovereigns in their dioceses and, while it has the authority to remove them, the Holy See is usually very slow to do so, preferring discreet solutions such as early retirement.

The three forced departures in seven months have no precedent in recent years and suggest an increasing preparedness to intervene on the part of the Pope and his new prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. The previous prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, was an uber-liberal.

The Catholic archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, who will be retiring in 11 weeks, professed himself at a loss to understand the decision. He told the ABC: " I just wish it hadn't happened and I don't know why it happened and I would very much like to know."

Perhaps I can enlighten him. Morris issued an Advent pastoral letter in 2006 that canvassed various options to make up for the lack of priestly vocations in his diocese. Some were uncontroversial. Others, including the ordination of married or single women and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church clergy, were heretical.

He has since then maintained what he likes to call a dialogue on these non-options.

As anyone with the rudiments of a theological education would know, the Catholic Church resolved the question of women priests in 1994, with the Pope ruling that it had no power to ordain women in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1995 described that decision as unchangeably settled and "to be held definitively as belonging to the deposit of faith".

On the issue of recognising the orders of Protestant clergy, Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void" back in 1896 in Apostolicae Curae. That decision was reaffirmed by the CDF in 1998 as an infallible pronouncement to which Catholics must give "firm and definitive assent". The Lutherans in Australia and the Uniting Church don't have bishops or anything remotely like ordination in the Apostolic Succession, so recognising their orders is, theologically speaking, inconceivable.

As a bishop, Morris was obliged to teach what the church teaches, rather than using his position to sow error and confusion among his flock. His removal must have come as an almighty shock to him and his brother bishops in Queensland because they've been getting away with flouting some of Rome's rulings with impunity since the 1970s.

Given that Morris has had five years of what he again likes to call dialogue with no less than three Vatican congregations and the Pope, with plenty of opportunities to change his tune, why has he persisted in error when he was so clearly in the wrong? There are several schools of thought.

The first argues the bishop just isn't very bright. Its spokesman, Frank Brennan SJ, says: "Bill Morris never pretended to be an academic theologian. He was and is a sensible, considerate, pastoral priest and bishop of a country diocese."

The second, aired on high-profile sites such as Rorate Caeli and Father John Zuhlsdorf's blog and local sites such as Vexilla Regis, is that Morris may have had health problems. The third view, which most agree is at least a significant element, is stubbornness. Morris is one of those liberal-authoritarians who like to assert that within their own jurisdiction they are as powerful as the Pope.

The (ultra-liberal) National Council of Priests encouraged this delusion with a press release last week. "We are concerned about an element within the Church whose restorationist ideology wants to repress freedom of expression within the Roman Catholic Church and who deny the legitimate magisterial authority of the local bishop within the Church."

However, the fact of the matter is that individual bishops have no authority to make independent decisions about questions of doctrine, but rather a collegial role with the other bishops under the leadership of the Pope.

And, again despite the NCP press release, the Pope is not merely the first among equals. According to Canon 331, "by virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power, which he is always able to exercise freely".

Morris's removal sends a clear message to bishops, in Australia and around the world. The Holy See's patience is not, as it long seemed, limitless.

As with the Orvieto-Todi case, the fact that this intervention happened in a first-world country suggests delinquents in the European and American hierarchies can take a lot less for granted than before. As well, requests from the Vatican for bishops' resignations are more likely to succeed during the rest of Pope Benedict's reign because he has just demonstrated that he's prepared to use his powers.

Morris has become a cause celebre in the US thanks to an editorial in The National Catholic Recorder. More of the same can be expected from The Tablet, the English Catholic journal and other liberal websites. No doubt some members of the Swiss and Dutch bishops' conferences will be once again canvassing the option of schism, de facto or actual.

What are the likely repercussions for the Australian Catholic Church? Morris's departure will further fortify the position of Cardinal George Pell and the more traditionally minded bishops.

The more realistic, liberal bishops are going to have to kiss goodbye to any lingering fantasies they clung to in the 90s of ordaining nuns, or at least keep them to themselves.

As well, the next two years will see an unusually high number of empty sees, as a cohort reaches the age of 75 and retirement.

Three of them are north of the Tweed and it looks increasingly likely that the Vatican will be choosing outsiders rather than locals to fill the vacancies. Mark Coleridge, now Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, will probably be translated to Brisbane.


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